Focus on Retention


How Your Members Sabotage Their Own Success

The club looks great. You have the very best equipment and the latest classes. You've hired the best people and trained them well. Yet some of your members still leave.

You can accept losing the ones who are moving out of town, but how are you supposed to react when you hear, “I don't have time” or “It's too expensive”? How do you accept those excuses when you know your products and services are the key to a person's well-being? Most importantly, what more can you do to keep from losing the members who give these excuses?

For dramatic results, you need to discover something new that your customers really need. The good news is that research consistently shows there is something our fleeing members require. The question is, “Are you providing it?”

Research studies cited at our industry trade shows, and in books and reports on the subject of member retention, indicate that the main determinant of whether people get started on and stick with their exercise plan is what is going on in their own minds — in other words, their attitudes and beliefs about themselves and their ability to get in shape. Those who have an image of themselves as a fit person have a much easier time sticking with their program, regardless of how busy their lives get.

You have probably seen the Prochaska Model (sidebar, right) enough to recognize the “stage of change” that your current members are in when they struggle to stick with their workout plans. They have entered the Action stage, but they are slipping.

You may also recognize the huge opportunity presented by two other stages made up entirely of people who understand the benefits of regular exercise, but currently do not do it (Contemplation and Preparation). We need not concern ourselves with those in the Pre-Contemplation stage — estimated to be no more than 2 percent of the population — because the opportunity for increased sales and retention lies in stages two, three and four.

In those stages, we find people who struggle with getting long-term results even though they know exercise is good for them. These are the ones who often are holding a self-image of an unfit person, making the task of getting in shape more difficult than it needs to be.

The same kind of resources many club owners and managers have used to improve the way they run their businesses can be invaluable in supporting members and prospects in recognizing how their self-image determines their results. Personal and business improvement programs are based mostly on studies of what successful people and companies do differently than those who do not succeed. For example, the personal studies on which Steven Covey based his best-selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People identify the same traits as James Collin's Built to Last, which studied successful businesses.

The same concepts Covey and Collins discovered about successful people and businesses can be used to help your members and prospects reach their fitness goals. When they begin to approach their fitness goals the way that all successful people approach their goals, they will be much more likely to achieve them. And if you are the one who supports them in realizing this fact and making the necessary changes, you are going to end up with very loyal, long-term members.

Here are a few steps you can take to begin to offer your members and prospects this kind of support:

  1. Identify the personal characteristics you will encourage members and prospects to pursue. What are the two or three that you believe are the most important for them to know in order to succeed?

  2. Choose an employee to “champion” this approach. Look for a person who is already familiar with the vast array of available personal development material and who practices what he preaches.

  3. Make this approach a part of your strategy in all aspects of your business. To attract, sell and retain more members, make providing emotional support an integral part of your marketing, sales and fitness departments.

I think my favorite excuse of all time for not exercising has to be, “I'll go to the gym as soon as I'm in better shape.” Let's help people to get themselves in shape now, in their minds, so they are more comfortable going to the club to get their body to match that new self-image.

Robert MacPhee is the president of Heart Set Inc. in Encinitas, Calif. MacPhee helps people realize how our attitudes, beliefs and self-image determine whether we reach our fitness goals. He can be contacted at (760) 632-4909.

Five Sure Signs of Self-Sabotage

  1. Negative Self-Talk: Surfaces in the way members talk to you.
  2. Making Excuses: What is causing them to miss their workouts?
  3. Blaming Others: Whose fault is it that they are missing their workouts?
  4. Attendance: If they are not showing up, their attitudes (“I don't like to exercise”) and beliefs (“I don't have time”) are probably what is preventing them from doing what they know they “should” do.
  5. Body Language: A person's posture will tell you his confidence level.

The Prochaska Model Stages of Change

  1. Pre-Contemplation: does not even recognize the benefits of exercise

  2. Contemplation: pain associated with exercise outweighs the perceived benefits

  3. Preparation: benefits of exercise perceived as equal to detriments, considering exercising

  4. Action: benefits perceived as greater than detriments, begins exercising

  5. Maintenance: no longer recognizes the detrimental side of exercise, it's a habit

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